The organisers of Tirreno-Adriatico have confirmed that Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) will all ride this year’s race, setting up the first ever clash between the four big-name Grand Tour contenders.
The only other time when the so-called 'Four Tenors' or 'Fantastic Four' of cycling will race against each other is expected to be at the Tour de France. The four have never gone head to head in a major WorldTour stage race due to different race programmes and objectives.
The stellar line-up at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico continues in the rest of the field with Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) set to clash in the sprints.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) also stand out on the list of team leaders issued by RCS Sport.
Tirreno-Adriatico begins on the Tuscan coast with a 22.7km team time trial on Wednesday March 11 and ends on Tuesday March 17 with a 10km individual time trial. The race is traditionally the final preparation for the Milan-San Remo favourites but RCS Sport has included two testing mountain stages in recent years, making it perfect for the stage racers to show their early-season form.
Tirreno-Adriatico now arguably overshadows Paris-Nice as the most important stage race of the spring.
Nibali dominated in 2012 and 2013, with Contador taking home the winner's trident trophy in 2014. Froome finished second in 2013 but avoided a clash with Contador in 2014. Quintana was second behind Contador last year, going on to win the Giro d'Italia.
Froome and Contador clashed at the recent Ruta del Sol with the Briton coming out on top after distancing the Spaniard on the second and decisive mountain finish. However, Contador is out for revenge as he prepares for his attempt to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 2015.
"I am really looking forward to returning to this race because I had fantastic sensation there last year, and it gives me another opportunity to meet the Italian fans, who have always made me feel at home," Contador said.
You can find a full start list for the 2015 Tirreno-Adriatico here.
Tirreno-Adriatico 2015: Stages
Stage 1: March 11: Lido di Camaiore, 22.7km TTT
Stage 2: March 12: Camaiore to Cascina, 153km
Stage 3: March 13: Cascina to Arezzo, 203km
Stage 4: March 14: Indicatore (Arezzo) to Castelraimondo, 226km
Stage 5: March 15: Esanatoglia to Terminillo, 197km
Stage 6: March 16,: Rieti to Porto Sant’Elpidio, 210km
Stage 7: March 17: San Benedetto del Tronto, 10km ITT.
The teams and leaders:
Ag2r La Mondiale (Fra): Pozzovivo, Betancur
Astana Pro Team (Kaz): Nibali, Cataldo
Bardiani CSF (Ita): Battaglin, Pirazzi
BMC Racing Team (USA): Van Avermaet, De Marchi
Bora-Argon 18 (Ger): Huzarski, Bennett
Colombia (Col): Duarte, Rubiano Chavez
Etixx-QuickStep (Bel): Cavendish, Uran
FDJ (Fra): Pinot, Roy
IAM Cycling (Swi): Brändle, Pelucchi
Lampre-Merida (Ita): Pozzato, Modolo
Lotto Soudal (Bel): Van Den Broeck, Roelandts
Movistar Team (Spa): Quintana, Malori
MTN-Qhubeka (RSA): Boasson Hagen, Ciolek
Orica-GreenEdge (Aus): Durbridge, Yates
Team Cannondale – Garmin (USA): Martin, Hesjedal
Team Europcar (Fra): Rolland, Arashiro
Team Giant-Alpecin (Ger): Kittel, Mezgec
Team Katusha (Rus): Rodriguez, Moreno
Team Lotto NL – Jumbo (Ned): Gesink, Vanmarcke
Team Sky (Gbr): Froome, Viviani
Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus): Contador, Sagan
Trek Factory Racing (USA): Cancellara, Mollema